Gather Magazine

How to build a glassware collection

Collecting glassware isn’t about investment or showing off to guests, it’s about looking for what moves you

Trinkets, treasures, decorative objects – the best collections begin by accident rather than design, and they start with love, whether that’s an attraction to the way something looks or a personal connection that serves as a reminder of a happy or comforting time – books you read growing up, toys you played with or a stamp collection that was kick-started by a relative. Keeping these items, looking at them and holding them, can bring back special memories.

Where to find great glassware

Going out to look for objects to add to your collection can be rewarding in itself – the ability to hold something, turn it over in your hands and decide if it’s something that has value to you. It can be a great way to connect with other people, too. Antique and vintage fairs, car boot sales, flea markets and specialist shops provide more than just an opportunity to find an object, they’re also a chance to chat with like-minded collectors. Sharing photos of your collection on Instagram or TikTok and discussing them on forums can extend your network and lead to new friendships.

What’s your style?

Interiors stylist Amy Edwards has been collecting glassware since her grandmother gave her a set of colourful vintage Iittala wine glasses to use at her first dinner party. ‘I loved how they transformed the table from drab and plain to bright and fun,’ she says. ‘A little while later I was at a local boot sale and spotted some glass tumblers in this amazing kaleidoscope pattern. They were distinctive and colourful and seemed to tell a story. I got them home and a friend said they were Murano, which was wonderful, but the main thing for me was that I loved drinking my juice from them in the morning. After that, I was hooked.’

Designers to look for

Today, Amy says flea markets and charity shops are often where she picks up her most unexpected and satisfying finds, but she keeps a look out for new designers creating characterful vessels too, as they make great birthday and Christmas requests from friends and family. ‘I have a few favourites at the moment that I’ve got my eye on. I love Issy Granger’s Pom glasses, which are mouth blown and dotted with pretty glass beads. Petra Palumbo is a Scottish designer who hand-paints her glassware with blousy flowers, her carafe and tumbler sets are beautiful. Late Afternoon’s colourful jugs and tumblers are a work of art too – just the thing for a summer get-together.’

How will you display your collection?

One of the most satisfying aspects of building a collection can be thinking about how best to arrange and display it. Amy houses her glassware collection in a giant wooden cabinet in her kitchen. Glazed doors reveal everything from small Spanish tapas wine glasses that she brought back from Madrid, carefully wrapped in clothes in her suitcase, to vintage Russian crystal that her parents swigged vodka from in the Seventies. 

‘I think how you display it depends on what you’re collecting,’ says Amy. ‘Glasses make sense in the kitchen, in a cocktail cabinet or on shelves somewhere close to where you will use them. My daughter collects sea glass, and she displays it in a lovely vintage glass bottle. You might want to display your collection in one place – multiples of anything can look striking – or you might prefer the pieces to be dotted around your home and less obviously together. It depends on your style, and how formal you want to make it.’

How to identify antique and vintage glassware

Of course, not all glass is created equal. ‘Antique’ glassware is usually anything more than 100 years old, while ‘vintage’ is closer to 50. How do you know which is which? Antique glass tends to be heavier, as does crystal, which is a type of glass created using lead oxide rather than calcium – hold it up to the light and you should notice a prism effect from the fine cuts etched into it. The shape of the glass and its decoration can give clues as to who might have made it, as can any signatures or marks. Pontil marks are ring-shaped scars left on the bottom when the rod was removed after glass-blowing. It’s one of the best ways to work out the age and quality of antique glassware, as it suggests the piece was mouth blown.

Most glassware you find at markets or in secondhand shops is likely to be common, but if it’s a piece you love then that shouldn’t take away from its charm. ‘I’ve got a real mix of makes and styles in my collection, but I like to think there’s still a certain something that binds them together, which is my own personal taste,’ says Amy. ‘The key is to only buy things that make you smile.’;;

Image credit: Late Afternoon

Read more in Gather Magazine